OK. I admit it. Teaching your kids to dress won’t help them eat right.

But, thinking about how you teach your kids to dress will definitely help you teach them to eat right.

4 Things we don’t expect toddlers to know about socks.

  1. What they’re called.
  2. What they’re for.
  3. How to put them on.
  4. When to wear them.

It takes 3 categories of knowledge to dress right: facts, skills and decision-making.

We start teaching children to dress when we teach them to identify their hands, their feet and to count their toes. But we don’t stop there. We simultaneously teach them:

• Facts about Clothing – what it is and what it’s for

• Technical Skills of Dressing – how to master zippers, buttons and shoe-laces

• Decisions-making about Clothing Selection – how to create pleasing (and socially approved of) outfits, how to match clothes to weather (is it hot, cold, raining?) and to the event (going to the beach, to bed, to a celebratory bash?)

It takes 3 categories of knowledge to eat right too.

Parents typically focus most intensely on teaching children facts about food (what different foods are called, whether they’re healthy or not). They also concentrate on teaching children technical skills (how to use a knife and fork). And decision-making? It’s often over-looked because we think our kids are too young.

Young kids make immature decisions about eating, but that doesn’t mean they’re not making decisions.

Every time your child decides whether or not to eat something she is exercising her judgment. Appealing to her logic – it’s good for you — won’t work. Research shows that children are making decisions based on more visceral considerations – what the food looks and/or smells like, whether they are feeling adventurous or cautious.

The easiest way to improve your child’s decision-making is to provide some guidelines.

Here are three things to teach your children:

1) We eat foods in proportion to their healthy benefits. (“I know you like mac ‘n cheese but we only eat it once a week because we have to eat really healthy foods more often.”)

2) We eat a variety of foods. (“I know you like cheese but you had it yesterday for snack so today we’re going to have something different.”)

3) We only eat when we’re hungry and we stop eating when we’re full. (“Is your tummy hungry?” “Is it full?” “Eat a little of everything on your plate, but remember to save room for dessert.”)

We would never plunk down a pair of pants and expect our young kids to know what to do with them. So why do we plunk down the peas?

Talk to your kids about the food, about the skills and about the decision-making and by the time they can master their shoe-laces they’ll master the spinach as well.

I would love to hear from you!

Are you happy with how your parents taught you to eat? Or, do you wish your parents had done things differently?

What techniques have been successful for you? What are you having trouble teaching your children about eating?